First Drive: 2020 BMW X5M Review

Twin-turbo 4.4L V8...Giddy Up

Scottsdale, AZ – BMW was one of the first automakers to prove you can have your cake and eat it, too. They did so by performing engineering magic on the compact and sensible X5, an upscale SUV that can haul kids to soccer in style and comfort. 

The German performance manufacturer added the letter M, and created one tasty treat. 

This is the third generation of the performance-focused M version of the venerable SUV, which debuted way back in 2009. Not only is it the most energetic yet, but it’s also just wicked fun. 

Also read: BMW Decides to Make a 7-Passenger SUV

Here’s what you can expect from BMW’s New 2020 X5M SUV

In standard form, the X5 can be had with engines as small as a 2.0-litre four or heartier inline 6. The M badge skips over the thrifty stuff and goes straight for pure, unadulterated horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8. 

BMW X5M
In “comfort” settings, the X5M can cruise quietly and softly down a freeway, providing reasonable fuel economy with the big V8 in loafing mode. Photo: BMW

It also has complex electronics, striking beauty and acceleration that’ll leave you gasping like Henry Ford II after a joy ride with Carroll Shelby. (If you haven’t seen the movie Ford v Ferrari, you have to see this scene.)  

In “comfort” settings, the X5M can cruise quietly and softly down a freeway, providing reasonable fuel economy with the big V8 in loafing mode. Switch the steering, braking, suspension and engine to pre-set custom tailored sport mode, and the M turns into a fire-breathing monster. 

“The push of a single button transforms it into a sports car tailored to your specific needs,” says Rainer Steiger, head of the project that produced the X5M and its strange SAC (sports activity coupé) cousin, the fastback X6M. 

Closer look inside the cabin & exterior features

BMW X5M interior
The M performance level delivers a variety of colour clues, with a splash of red on the control buttons on the centre console, a custom leather steering wheel and gearshift lever, and coloured seat belt stitching. Photo: BMW

Premium leather and meticulous attention to detail convey a sense of quality throughout the interior. 

Enhancing the interior experience is the piped-in sound system, which artificially enhances the exhaust note. Electronically controlled flaps modulate the amount of growl emanating from its quad 100 mm tailpipes, and the exhaust sound note inside the cabin can be tweaked with the M Sound Control button in the centre console.

The 31-cm (12-inch) digital instrument cluster is easy to read. Brightness on the heads up display is adjustable. The M performance level delivers a variety of colour clues, with a splash of red on the control buttons on the centre console, a custom leather steering wheel and gearshift lever, and coloured seat belt stitching. 

The X5M also has a distinct advantage over the X6M in headroom, cargo space and rear visibility. 

The exterior has subtle styling differences that set it apart from the non-M models, including a blacked out front kidney grill, massive front bumper air intake openings, and distinct badging. The rear deck is set off with a mini spoiler and integrated quad exhaust.

Performance & handling: How does BMW’s V8-powered family hauler behave on the road?

BMW X5M wheel
The standard M wheels are 21-inch cast alloy all around, and the Competition model gets 22-inch in the rear. Photo: BMW

The standard M puts out 600 hp. Handling is precise, and the rigid body handles tight corners with minimal fuss. The Competition version ups the ante to 617 horsepower, which delivers the ability to launch from dead stop to 100 km/h (roughly 0 to 60 mph) in a neck-snapping 3.8 seconds. 

Meanwhile, the xDrive, all-wheel-drive system splits the drive torque between the front and rear axles to maintain optimum traction. The M Steptronic eight speed automatic transmission with Drivelogic. An electronically controlled multi-plate clutch transfers the power between the front and rear axles while the Active M differential further divides the power between the two rear wheels as needed.

The standard M wheels are 21-inch cast alloy all around, and the Competition model gets 22-inch in the rear. 

The M badge skips over the thrifty stuff and goes straight for pure, unadulterated horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8. 

The eight-speed transmission shifts instantly and flawlessly, with paddles on the wheel. If you’d rather leave shifting to the car, the automatic is linked to a GPS (optional), so it can proactively downshift as you approach a bend. Only the most skilled drivers can better this tranny’s performance. 

With the xDrive engaged, the vehicle tracks flat and stick to the road well beyond sane limits. Push it hard enough, and the sport Michelins on these 2,300-kilogram (2.5-ton) machines will eventually slip, but the car never loses control.  

BMW caps the top speed at 250 km/h (155 mph), or 285 km/h (177 mph) with the optional M Driver’s Package. 

Takeaway

BMW X5M front grille
BMW was one of the first automakers to prove you can have your cake and eat it, too. They did so by performing engineering magic on the compact and sensible X5, an upscale SUV that can haul kids to soccer in style and comfort. Photo: BMW

In spite of their premium prices, BMW’s M series of performance SUVs have developed a solid following. Year-over-year sales of the second generation M cars were up 32 per cent internationally in 2019, says Lars Beulke, Product Management of the X5M. 

German-based automakers, like BMW, Audi, Porsche and Mercedes, are locked in a performance arms race, and it has reached heady heights. You, dear consumer, are the winner.

The X5M and X6M are to be available at dealers on April 18, 2020. Pricing and fuel economy figures have not yet been announced in Canada, but last year’s base was listed at $116,250. The U.S. version starts at US $106,095.

Check out the rest of our SUV reviews here.

New X5M Slide:


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Doug Firby
I am a communications generalist with more than four decades of experience in online, blogging, newspapers, radio and magazines. I'm also a gearhead and an outdoor enthusiast. I write on cars, trucks, bikes and the auto industry for national publications. And I am president and publisher of Troy Media Digital Solutions.

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